When it comes to exercise and health data, I find myself going round in little circles. How can I understand my body’s current capabilities? –> how can I automatically measure my physical output and check I’m improving? —> How can I use exercise to detach from all the over-thinking in my life? The dialogue between using fitness technology to help performance and to reject it altogether in exchange for mental clarity is an ongoing discussion in my head and even to this day I’m wondering when we’ll just throw our GPS watches in the bin in protest.
Data is power
As a newly qualified Personal Trainer, I have to keep up to speed with the latest technology trends within the fitness industry whether I like it or not. Interestingly, it seems as though a number of gyms are fully incorporating heart rate training. This means you will be allocated a heart rate monitor before a Spin session or a HIIT class where you will see your name alongside other gym-goers and your current heart rate.
I went to Cycho Cycle in Mortlake the other day to try out spin with real-time performance HR feedback. I found myself watching the numbers in fascination, desperately trying to drop the number when I wasn’t exerting myself and then trying to spike it when I was mid-sprint. Yes, I sweated like I’d never sweated and yes, I came home to find a summary of my workout arrive into my inbox and yes, I loved it.
The autonomy of all of this information was awesome, it was statistics that were all happening while I was working out. I just needed to attach the monitor to me and off I went. I loved the convenience of it all.
If your Maximum Heart Rate = 220 – age then you have the opportunity to work at different thresholds which means you can optimally burn fat (60-80%) or work on training your speed and endurance (80%+) so using heart rate technology to train can be really useful when you are specifically training with a goal in mind.
You can’t argue with data
I am a chronic over-thinker which means I interpret information, people, information from people, pains, aches and unusual feelings in many different ways throughout the day. It was a timely invite from One Stop Doctors after months of convincing myself I had a number of fatal conditions all outlined from Google search results and of course emphasised by the voices in my head.
One Stop Doctors
After checking in with One Stop Doctors in Hemel Hempstead the other day for an Ultimate Health Assessment, I realised I had many misconceptions about my health which I wanted to share with you:
- My cholesterol is a little on the high side, anything under 5 mmol/L is considered good, so here I am at 5.8mmol/L – this is surprising as I’m considered as an “active” person but still an important bit of knowledge.
- I had slightly higher levels of creatinine kinase in my kidney which means my kidneys may not be working as optimally as they should
- Despite theories around gluten, a blood test revealed I had no allergies to gluten or dairy
- I have sinus bradycardia which means my resting heart rate is low at 50 beats per minute
I had an opportunity to talk a physiotherapist about my neck and upper back which is no doubt attributed to a lifestyle of sitting by a desk and I also had a 1 hour long consultation with a GP to discuss any concerns or worries.
The weight that was lifted off of my shoulders after walking away from this health assessment was like no other, after months if not years of building up fairly robust assumptions about my health, here I had a report which told me exactly what the score was.
Find out more about One Stop Doctors here.
I want to break free
Not like Freddie Mercury in a living room running a hoover along the floor, I use exercise to break free from the living room and into big wide open spaces where nothing can stop me. Through exercise I can stop myself fretting and worrying about the past 24 hours or whatever is around the corner.
Exercise is almost like a form of mediation where I go out tired and overwhelmed and and come back feeling super invincible.
But this is somewhat jeopardised by the vibration from my watch telling me Mile 5 is complete and it’s kind of rubbish when you know your ambling down a path where a Strava segment exists when you could be attempting to wipe the leader board.
Sometimes my own insistence of being tracked and keeping my data records up to date is the one thing that I’m trying to escape from. But at what gain?
Exercise + Data = Improvement?
If learning more about our performance data and health stats equates to an improvement then we have to embrace this, our gyms will or should incorporate this into our gym activities, consumer-led products will allow little things like heart rate monitors even easier to buy, use and wear. We have access to more data about ourselves than ever before and the more autonomous this process becomes, the better.
Training with data in mind pushes you to compete against yourself and make the stats work in your favour. It’s a simple case of gamifying the process and adding competition into the equation. While escaping GPS tracking can be great every once in a while, it is only ideal for the occasional run where distance or time isn’t so important. I use runs or bike rides as free counselling but I need to know I’ll do it in a certain time , the instant feedback of a GPS watch helps me tick a session off the lit. Instant gratification.
Health-based data can help settle the over-thinker in us, building up the wrong theory about your health can be mentally damaging. Medical data can surprise you with statistics that you didn’t realise was a problem, acknowledging that your diet needs to change or you need to incorporate more or less exercise into your life.
It looks like data is here to stay, and if it helps me run faster, cycle faster then I’m okay with that. Perhaps, I’ll find some mental clarity elsewhere…